Thursday, August 22, 2019

Dust jacket scrap from kinky book:
"The Stoned Apocalypse"

When I picked this up on a lark at a book sale in Lancaster, the dust jacket was tattered and beyond salvaging. So I trimmed it down to a portion that I could save for posterity. You can see what the full dust jacket looked like here.

  • Title: The Stoned Apocalypse
  • Author: Marco Vassi (1937-1989)
  • Author's full name: Marco Ferdinand William Vasquez-d'Acugno Vassi
  • Designer (presumably of the dust jacket): Jack Jaget
  • Publisher: Trident Press, New York
  • Publication date: 1972
  • Pages: 251
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Back cover excerpt: "By the time he was thirty, Marco Vassi had worked as a translator of Chinese, a New York public-school teacher, a psychotherapist, an editor of men's magazines, a librarian, and had been in a Franciscan monastery deciding whether he wanted to be a priest. The following three years ⁠— the subject of this book ⁠— took him through a period of chaos during which he engaged in a coast-to-coast, surreal wrestling match, and observed the spiritual death of the psychedelic sixties."
  • Should I send the kids to bed now? Probably.
  • First sentence: "Are you ... searching?"
  • Last sentence: I have stopped searching.
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: We all flashed the existential dilemma of our reliance on the sun, that source of all life which is so obvious we come, stupidly, to take it for granted and forget, each day, to reel in the wonder of its existence.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: And now the two of them were flying to Chicago to confront the dragon and come away with booty.
  • Well, that's not so bad. Just wait.
  • Random sentence from the middle #3: We began making animal noises, and making the big bed squeak with our thrashings.
  • Um. You were warned.
  • More about Vassi: According to Wikipedia, he "was an American experimental thinker and author, most noted for his erotica. ... Vassi was born and lived most of his life in New York City. He was married three times, but was well known for sexual, drug, and alternative-lifestyle experimentation. He viewed life as the theory and practice of liberation, an exploration of being sexual, that is an all-sexual being, bisexual, and homosexual. Vassi coined the term metasex, which meant any sex outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage."
  • Goodreads rating of The Stoned Apocalypse: 4.06 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2009, Lena wrote: "The book also served as an intriguing window into a world that was mostly over before I was even aware of its existence. Vassi's depictions of the drugs he took while bouncing between hippie crash pads is colorful to say the least. In the midst of expanding his mind, he also expanded his sexuality, moving through various stages of denial and experimentation before finally accepting his own bisexuality."
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2012, Sarah wrote: "After I read this I had a much better understanding of the 1960's and the mindset that was innocent enough to believe there was still such a thing as a free ride, a free life, a free mind and body."
  • Opposing Amazon review excerpt: In 2014, Ian wrote: "He gets involved in a few spiritual movements, takes LSD and meanders though the 1960s. He's a shallow vessel and the book becomes tedious. I gave up about half way through."
  • Best title of a Vassi novel: The Devil's Sperm is Cold

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Happy 20th birthday, Hua Mei
(recalling Panda Cam mania)

Infant Hua Mei, left, and Bai Yun appear in this panda cam screen shot from November 24, 1999.

Break out the frozen-juice cake!! Today is the 20th birthday of Hua Mei (华美), a female giant panda. The daughter of mother Bai Yun (1991-present) and father Shi Shi (c. 1970s-2008), Hua Mei was born at the San Diego Zoo on August 21, 1999, and became the first giant panda cub to survive to adulthood in the United States.

In 1999, during the early years of the world wide web, connections were slow and multimedia technology was primitive. But we did have Panda Cam, and it was one of the coolest things on Earth! The Panda Cam window was about 3 inches wide. It was a low-resolution, black-and-white video image. It was prone to lagging. But it was addictive! Here's a short sample clip:

Fellow copy editor Mike McCombs and I would watch the 24/7 Panda Cam endlessly on our PCs in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal sports department. It's a wonder we managed to finish the section on some nights, as we watched Bai Yun's daughter Hua Mei grow from a little peanut to a toddler. It was just like The Truman Show, but without Laura Linney pitching products.

Hua Mei has lived in China since 2004 and has given birth to at least 10 cubs over the years. Giant pandas can live to the age of 30 to 35 in captivity, so she should have many birthdays remaining.

This past spring, 27-year-old Bai Yun and her youngest cub, Xiao Liwu, left the San Diego Zoo to return to China, per the terms of the zoo's conservation loan agreement. To the best of my knowledge, only three American zoos still have giant pandas — Zoo Atlanta, the Memphis Zoo and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. You can see the National Zoo's Panda Cam here. It's a lot snazzier than the one we were watching 20 years ago.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Papergreat's whole lotta
late-summer reads 2019

Instagram photo by me

OK, I think I went overboard on this big batch of mainstream and less-mainstream reading recommendations. There's more than enough interesting content here to tide you over until Halloween.

Serious stuff

Less-serious stuff

Frivolous-yet-still-meaningful stuff

Instagram photo by me

Monday, August 19, 2019

It's never too soon for the fairy tale of autumn school days

Across Pennsylvania, many kids are donning their backpacks1, grabbing their lunches from the counter, boarding buses and returning to school this week. It's one of the first signs of autumn, along with the Reese's pumpkins that hit stores, oh, about a month ago.

Papergreat has been awash in School Days history and nostalgia for many years, with 150+ posts under that label. Shown above is the perfect example of an illustration style that evokes wistful memories for many generations who navigated the 20th century, particularly from the 1940s through 1970s. This two-page spread comes from Let's Count: Growth in Arithmetic, which was published in 1953 by World Book Company and written by John R. Clark, Charlotte W. Junge and Caroline Hatton Clark. More importantly, it was illustrated by Betty Alden and Revere F. Wistehuff.2 Those two artists captured the spirit of a time that hits home for many. There's the one-story school building with windows that open to serve as the air-conditioning. There's golden fall foliage, kickball, jump rope, light jackets, sandals and dress shoes, and so many smiling faces.

So many white smiling faces. You won't find any people of color in Let's Count, unless you are referring to the Native American mask being made by a student in one of the illustrations. This was 1953, of course. Later textbooks, starting in the 1960s and especially into the 1970s, were slightly more inclusive when it came to the skin color of the children in the illustrations. And I've seen excellent school books from circa 1970 that went out of their way to be diverse, but those were definitely the exception.3

But even beyond the whiteness of these illustrations, they present a bit of a comforting fairy tale of autumn School Days that never existed. When we were present in those times, either as students or as parents with our own children, it was never about the beauty of the outdoors or the playground or the flag pole or the classroom decorations or the other things highlighted in mid-century school illustrations.

It was about staying in strict lines in the hallways, surviving the drama (and sometimes the bullies) of the playground, the chaos of the crowded cafeteria, the runny noses, the quizzes, the trips to the nurse's office, the looming presence of the principal4, the threat of punishment for talking too much or breaking other rules, the constant watching of the clock and learning to count by counting the minutes until the dismissal bell. We weren't sitting at our desks thinking these are the true golden days.

There was some good, of course. "Library day" meant taking a class trip — everyone stay in line! — to the room filled with books. There, you could find something interesting to read and squirrel yourself away in the sunkenarium or some other quiet corner until it was time to march back to the classroom.

But, beyond that...

I'm not saying that we have no great memories of our School Days. We all definitely do. I just find it interesting to see how we have such rose-colored glasses about certain aspects of the past, especially when we know it was never close to being how it looked in the pictures and illustrations.

And, of course, websites like this one perpetuate and encourage that nostalgia.

1. Kevlar backpacks, in some cases.
2. Revere F. Wistehuff is one of the best names to appear on this blog.
3. The Cooperative Children's Book Center tallies the numbers and percentage of children's books featuring people of color each year. Progress remains too slow. But it's certainly better now than it was six decades ago.
4. One of my elementary school principals had a paddle that was only spoken of in hushed whispers.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Charlotte Lederer illustrations within 1928's "The Story of the Gypsies"

I have a falling-apart copy of the 1928 hardcover The Story of the Gypsies, which was written by Konrad Bercovici (1882–1961). Bercovici was born in Romania and was raised in a multicultural environment, learning to speak Greek, Romanian, French and German. His family also had close ties with local Roma people. He later became a journalist (among many other life adventures) and was well-known for literary fiction exploring Romani/gypsy themes. He traveled widely to research enthnographies and other books, and hobnobbed with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Charlie Chaplin, the latter who had to pay him $95,000 to settle a lawsuit over the authorship of the script for The Great Dictator.

There's not much about the original The Story of the Gypsies (which was republished in 1983 as Gypsies: Their Life, Lore, and Legends) available online. But J. Cox wrote an eloquent piece as an Amazon review in 2016. Here are some excerpts:
"This is a strange and beautiful book. More of a mix of journalism, folklore, and the oral tradition than straight history, Mr. Bercovici was obviously in love with the people whose lives he described. ...

"This book was written and in 1928. The author ... is fearful for the future of the people who's lives he describes. Though Germany was solidly democratic at the time, Bercovici particularly cites the German addiction to strict law and order and the demand for cultural and ethnic homogeneity as the great threat to Gypsy survival and the Bolshevik ambition to transform society as a threat to Gypsy freedom. Given what what was coming in ten years time, the Porraimos, the Devouring, the systematic extermination of the European Gypsy communities by Nazi Germany, and its sad coda, the forcible assimilation of the remaining Gypsy communities in the post-war Communist regimes, this book ultimately strikes a note both heartbreaking and prophetic."
And then we come to the book's illustrator, Charlotte Lederer. We don't know much about her, specifically. She was likely born in Hungary in the late 19th century, and her maiden name was Charlotte Bacskai. We know this because her daughter, Anna Marie Rosenberg (1902-1983), achieved a more lasting fame. Anna and her family came to the United States as immigrants in 1912, and Anna's impressive resume included working as a student nurse, a seller of Liberty Bonds, a regional director for the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, a regional director for the War Manpower Commission, and, ultimately, she was confirmed as the first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Personnel, despite strenuous opposition from U.S. Sen. Joseph "Red Scare" McCarthy. She remained, I believe, the only woman to hold that post until Stephanie Barna had the job from 2014 to 2016 in President Barack Obama's administration.

But back to Charlotte Lederer. We know that some other books she illustrated include Tales from the Crescent Moon, Malou: A Little Swiss Girl, The Children of the Rising Sun, The Magic Cock, The Golden Flock, Ginevra, Made in Hungary, and Tinka, Minka and Linka.

Here are her four beautiful color illustrations from 1928's The Story of the Gypsies:

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Book cover: "So you want to be a Ham"

I thought this post would be thematically appropriate, given all the QSL cards that have been featured on Papergreat over the years...

  • Title: So you want to be a Ham
  • Author: Robert Hertzberg (1905-1992)
  • Cover artist: Unknown
  • Publisher: Howard W. Sams & Co., Inc., of Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Publication date: 1977 (Seventh Edition, Second Printing)
  • Original publication date: 1955
  • Seventh Edition price: $5.95 (That price in 1977 is the equivalent of about $25 today, so this was a pricey tome.)
  • Price I paid: $3.50 at The York Emporium
  • Pages: 189
  • Format: Paperback
  • Back cover excerpt: "Modern radiocommunications is one of the most fascinating technological advancements of our time. It has played a major role in making the world appear smaller than it is. An amateur radio operator, using only a small amount of power, can talk to fellow hams in distant countries. What better way is there to learn more about the world than to talk to someone who lives in another country thousands of miles away?"
  • About the author: Col. Robert Edward Hertzberg, who used the call signs 2ABK, W2DJJ and K4JBI during his lifetime, is profiled on the Quarter Century Wireless Association website. This is his mini biography that appears on the back cover of So you want to be a Ham:
    "Robert Hertzberg was only 15 years old when he received his amateur license on December 17, 1919. The next day, using a buzzer transmitter and a crystal receiver, he worked his first station. It was only two blocks away, but he has never forgotten the thrill that it gave him. Over the years that followed, his equipment has progressed from crude spark to sophisticated sideband, and to this day he gets a kick out of every new contact, local or DX.

    "While in college, Bob received $5.00 from an early radio magazine for a description of a homemade code-practice oscillator. Almost immediately, he turned his interests toward technical journalism. During a busy career as both editor and writer, he has authored more than thirty books and countless magazine articles.

    "In the late 1920s, he helped organize and promote the Army Amateur Radio System. This led to a commission in the Army Reserves, to five years of active duty during World War II, and to eventual retirement as a Colonel."
  • First paragraph: "It is late in the afternoon of a wintry day and you're killing time before supper. All you can find on TV is an old Western in which the 'good guy' manages to coax nine or ten shots out of a six-shooter without reloading. For relief, you turn on the old all-wave console radio you have retained for just such emergencies. As the set warms up, a lot of grinding noise comes out of the speaker."
  • Last paragraph: "As a hobby, ham radio seems to be closely related to shooting and photography. It is interesting to read the classified ads and to note that receivers, transmitters, rifles, pistols, cameras, and enlargers are always for sale or wanted."
  • Well, that's disturbing: Yes.
  • Random sentence from middle: "A picnic in the country becomes doubly enjoyable if you park your car in some quiet, secluded spot, preferably on a hill, where reception and transmission are both good."
  • Excerpt from a review: Written by W4KYR on Halloween 2016 for
    "This is the Fifth Edition, published in 1971 by Howard Sams & Co. This book was in my local library around the very early 1970's. When I saw this on one of the online bookstores going for under $5 I snapped it up.

    "From a purely historical point of view, this paperback classic is filled with photos of hams at their stations using now what we call vintage equipment. One picture was of a lady ham from Iowa who could send and receive at an impressive 60 wpm. Another picture is a ham who has his rig on the floor behind the driver's seat! The rig was so big that he couldn't even fit it under his dash. ...

    "If you are an older ham, this book should bring back some memories. If you are a newer ham, then buy this book for an exciting snapshot of our past. You should be able to pick this book at one of the online used bookstores for a few dollars. The historical pictures alone just about makes it a must buy. This book gets an 5 out of 5, but purely from an historical point of view."

Bonus interior photo

"Mrs. Eileen Cline ... often flabbergasts other hams by sending at 60 words per minute"

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Mystery real photo postcard:
Girl in the yard with pillow

I've been working on a longer post, but in the meantime here's a stained real photo postcard of a girl standing in a yard. She's holding what appears to be an embroidered pillow that's set upon a small table. Did she make the pillow? Was it a gift? A family heirloom?

Interestingly, she has a ring on the middle finger of her left hand. (You'll need to click on the photo and magnify to see it.) Anyone know if that signifies anything? Note, too, that she's wearing high-laced boots and has elaborate pigtails with ribbons. The yard itself isn't very interesting or filled with clues.

The back of the postcard has no writing and NO STAMP BOX, which is rare for the RPPCs I've encountered. That left me seemingly up a creek. But it turns out that the amazing has a page that allows you identify a real photo postcard just by the typography of the word POSTCARD on the back. And so it turns out that this postcard was published by Kregal (or Kregel) Photo Parlors in St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota, between the years of 1910 and 1918.

So that's nice, but of course none of that is likely to ever help us identify this girl.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The final two pieces of ephemera from that May yard sale!

We now have closure! Here, finally, are the last two postcards that Ashar and I picked up while checking out Dover Township yard sales on a May morning earlier this year. Up first is a postcard that was never mailed. The German caption on front states Ein Wolkenbruch, which translates to "a cloudburst." I asked Ash for his analysis of this odd postcard, and he said:
I'm guessing they're in a plane, but out on this thing and that the people with umbrellas are running away because the baby is peeing on them. That pretty much sums it up.
I find it hard to disagree with his assessment. I also find it hard to understand why this postcard exists. Less hard, perhaps, to understand why it was never mailed. I'm not quite sure who you would send it to.1

* * *

The last postcard is an AZO real photo postcard that dates to between 1910 and 1930 based upon the stamp box. This card was printed at The Wilson Studio, which had two locations: No. 225-227 West Market Street in York, Pennsylvania, and No. 420 Market Street in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There is no further information, useful or otherwise, on the front or back.

Ash's analysis is:
That baby looks alarmed. Mostly because I think that baby's sitting on a dead animal.
At least the baby itself looks alive, unlike that sensitive issue we dealt with in 2014.

Previously on "that May yard sale!"

1. Ash and I decided that a more descriptive German caption for the postcard would have been Zoinks, ein Kind aus den Wolken pinkelt auf mich!, which translates to "Zoinks, an infant from the clouds is peeing on me!" Don't you now regret scrolling down to this footnote?